Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Do You Lean In?

I was flipping through Cosmo the other day while I was getting a manicure (a blissfully peaceful 45 minutes) and came across an interview with Facebook's CEO Sheryl Sandberg.  She has started a movement (based on her new book) called "Lean In." Since I read that article, I've seen her all over the morning talk shows, on facebook and twitter.

This movement is very apropos for me right now, as I've recently been asked to give a presentation on Marketing and Social Media to a "Principles of Marketing" class at Washington University here in St. Louis.  Wash U students? My first thought was "They're all probably smarter than me! What could I possibly have to tell them?"

And herein lies the problem.  I'm fairly confident. And when it comes to writing, social media and marketing, I know my stuff.  But I don't believe I know more than the next guy. When I'm complimented, I immediately play down whatever success or achievement I've received. I don't know if this is a product of being raised a girl with nice manners, or just my own insecurities bubbling way too close to the surface. In any case, I've been asked to give this presentation, I've accepted the invitation, and now there's no backing out.  So, okay, I'm going to stand up in front of 50 college students and teach them something (I hope) about social media marketing.

But I digress.  Ms. Sandberg has created an organization called Lean In, where women are encouraged to tell their stories about speaking out, gaining more confidence and helping each other achieve their goals.  Are there times in your career where you've sat in a conference room against the back wall, rather than taking a chair right at the table? Are there times you've wanted to speak up, share your opinion, or disagree with decisions being made, but stayed silent?

Then this book - this organization - might be for you.  I'd like to think that by the time my seven year-old daughter begins her career, she won't even have to think about leaning in.  She'll just do it. Not because someone told her to, but because she believes she can. Because she has a voice, ideas, intelligence and drive. And she's worth listening to.

Listen, we do tend to underestimate ourselves. We must realize not only our potential but our current worth.  When I look back over the past 20 years of my career, I see more than a dozen articles and essays published, client projects created, managed and executed, ideas shared, thoughts given, lessons learned. Sure, there are people out there who know more than me, who've had different experiences, but what I bring to the table is my history, my experiences, my successes - and failures - and the sum total of all of them is nothing short of fantastic. It's true that I'm never satisfied, I'm always looking for what's next - what new social platforms are there to become an expert in, what marketing tools are trending, what topics can I write about that are new and interesting to readers? But sometimes, in all my desire to do more, write better, think smarter, work harder, I forget what I've already accomplished, what I'm doing right now. Today.

Every time I see a statement like this one, that compares men and women, I have mixed emotions. On one hand, I couldn't agree more with this statement. On the other hand, I have two sons and a daughter. And I don't like people labeling my sons any more than I like them labeling my daughter. But in my experience, men do seem much more comfortable talking themselves up, whereas the women I know are much more liable to talk each other up.  Interesting, isn't it?
The truth is, we women tend to let other people sway the way we feel about ourselves.  I am definitely guilty of this.

But I digress. If there is one piece of advice I can offer, it is this: No one else has had your exact experiences, your education, your training, your life. Use these to the best of your ability and you will certainly have something unique to offer.

This movement is growing daily. I'm just a writer who happened to be moved by what I read. Enough so that I want to share it with you.  More than share, I'd like to add my two cents... offer you something more, maybe inspire you to visit LeanIn.org and learn more - maybe even share your story. What I do know is this: If it's true that women tend to underestimate themselves, it can also be said that we always have each other's backs.  When we're young - well, that's another story. If you don't mind me generalizing, young girls tend to be catty, competitive, dare I say - bitchy.  (Hey - I spent four years in a Catholic all-girl school - I should know!) But as we mature, and come into our own, we become supportive, empathetic, empowering. We realize that without each other we can't be nearly as strong. And that the female friendships we've forged over the years are the most important relationships of our lives. So, if you have the urge to compete with, criticize, or judge another woman, let it be yourself.

But don't be too hard on that woman you see in the mirror - she's smart, beautiful inside and out, talented and kind. And she has so much to offer. Go ahead... Lean In!

Was there a time when you didn't lean in? When you did?  Finish this sentence: "I am leaning in because..."


  1. I never was self-confident. I used to think it was because no one (I thought)ever thought I knew anything. But, in my old age, I've come to realize that we make our own confidence with the support of friends and family...even men. I never wanted to be a school administrator, never thought I could do that job. Then a new principal at my school started talking to me and telling me that I would make a good one. I ignored her three times and then I thought I should at least look into it...and, 23 years later, I realize she was right. I love this movement. It appears to be women coming into their own and helping each other. What a concept: all of us with experience helping others gain experience and self-confidence. That's why I LOVE supervising my student teachers! By the way (and I may be a bit prejudice here) but I have always admired your talents and confidence and I think you have much to give to those students. I'd love to observe that class:)

    1. It IS a great concept! Those student teachers are VERY lucky!

  2. I am leaning in because I've really had it with all the negative crap I feed my brain. Thanks for this post. It goes along with all the other messages that I've been receiving.

    1. Lynn - you are absolutely leaning in! So proud of all you accomplish, and all the things you are learning, not because anyone told you to, but because you want to. : )

  3. This is a timely message, well spoken and oh so true. This generation of girls will have few self-doubts because their limitations are not imposed.

  4. This sounds a lot like a blog post I've been working on. Girls are getting much more confident, and it's a great thing to witness. Great message!